This time of year naturally lends itself to reflecting. I like the points the Unitarian Minister, referred to in this article, makes in his sermon. So, as we reflect on the year(s) behind us; beware the ‘distortion of retrospection’ and the ‘seduction of self-justification’! Now there’s something to reflect upon!
This first appeared on my personal web site, September 2003.
While out shopping this summer I found myself leafing through a rack of posters and my eyes alighted on one with the Robert Frost poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’. Apparently this is a well-known poem, however, it was new to me. When I returned from that shopping trip I got on-line and did a Google search on ‘Robert Frost’ and came up with some interesting results. One link sent me to a transcript of a sermon by a Unitarian Minister in New Hampshire where Robert Frost lived.
The Minister points out in his sermon that, ‘Far from being a hymn to rugged individualism, this poem is a gentle satire on indecisiveness, the distortion of retrospection, and the seduction of self-justification. That’s why the poem is titled not ‘The Road Less Traveled’, but ‘The Road Not Taken’ for there will always be a road not taken, and we will never know where, for worse or for better, it might have led.’
According to the above minister, in 1953 Robert Frost was reflecting upon ‘The Road Not Taken’, and said the following, ‘I wasn’t thinking about myself there, but about a friend who had gone off to war, a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other. He was hard on himself that way.’
The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth
Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference
When I discovered the poem I was thinking of a friend who was, at that time, hovering at a crossroad in her life. Now she has made her decision and, like Robert Frost’s friend, I hope she will not be too hard on herself with regards to the path she has chosen.
Postscript: To-day I was talking on the telephone to the woman referred to in the above article. She told me, with a mixture of mild amazement and her characteristic humility, “I’m content; I’ve never felt this good in my entire life”!